Maianthemum racemosum “False Lily of the Valley” Liliaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

These lilies are found abundantly in almost all moist-to-wet forests in North America. Here in the PNW, they are the largest of three species in this genus which all share the common name “false lily of the valley.” These plants are edible, but, when young, look nearly identical to False Hellebore which is very poisonous. Their shoots are said to taste like asparagus and their berries apparently taste like treacle. The plant has also been used at one point or another to treat every sort of ailment you can imagine. All parts of the plant, however, have strong to mild laxative effects and should be consumed cautiously. Learn more here.

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Fritillaria atropurpurea “Spotted Fritillary” Liliaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

There are several common species of chocolate/spotted/checkered fritillaries in the PNW (and countless endemics with tiny, restricted ranges in OR and CA). This species, F. atropurpurea, has the easternmost distribution and is found in most Rocky Mountain states as well as Oregon and California (not found in Washington, BC or Alberta, however). F. affinis is the most common species found west of the Cascades, but can also be found in parts of Idaho (not recorded in Montana or Alberta). F. camschatcensis, has a more northern distribution, but small populations can be found in Washington and Oregon (most abundant in BC and Alaska). The bulbs of all three species have been an important food source for native peoples. The flowers, which can be quite stinky, are pollinated by insects seeking dung and carrion.

Coccinella septempunctata “Seven-spotted Lady Beetle” Coccinellidae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

This species has been repeatedly introduced to the US as a biological control agent to manage aphid outbreaks. It is reportedly out-competing many native species in our area, but still has managed to become the official state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee. This individual was likely released as part of an ongoing Fish and Wildlife Service biological control project in the Drinking Horse Mountain area which has also involved intense invasive plant control (with goats!) in the past.

Penstemon eriantherus “Fuzzy-tongue Penstemon” Plantaginaceae (Scroph.)

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

As one of our largest penstemons in the PNW, this flower is hard to miss! Look for it on drier hillsides and valleys east of the Cascades where it often blooms alongside Lupine (Lupinus sp.) and Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sp.). Its common name, Fuzzy-tongue Penstemon, is somewhat misleading as all penstemons are characterized by possessing a “fuzzy tongue.” These fuzzy tongues are actually sterile stamens (one of five total, which is where the name “pente-stamen” comes from) which attract pollinators.

Tamiasciurus hudsonicus “Red Squirrel” Sciuridae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Red Squirrels are found throughout Nearctic coniferous forests where they defend territories year-round (they don’t hibernate). In the summer, squirrels will collect cones, seeds, and mushrooms in large caches which they feed from throughout the winter. As they eat these cones, they discard the scales in massive piles, called middens, which can grow to be over a meter tall. Winters here in Montana tend to be devoid of active fauna, however, these squirrels will angrily chirp at snowshoers and cross-country-skiers that wander through their territories.

Linum lewisii “Lewis’s Prairie Flax” Linaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Prairie Flax is native to western North America where it grows in dry open areas east of the Cascades and west of the Mississippi. This species was first collected on the Lewis and Clark expedition on July 9, 1806, although there is some debate as to whether it was collected by Meriwether himself or by Captain Clark. After the species was formally described by Frederick Pursh in 1814, the original specimen was lost for nearly a century along with many other historic records. Flax (L. usitatissimum) is among the oldest of all cultivated plants and has been utilized by humans for at least 30,000 years. Here in the Northwest, native peoples used fibers from the stems of L. lewisii to create cordage, string, and textiles and used its seeds to treat all manner of dietary problems, to reduce swelling in wounds and boils, and to remove small, irritating particles from the eye. Learn more about the edible and medicinal uses for L. lewisii here, and learn more about its discovery and discussion in the Lewis and Clark expedition here!

Malacosoma californica “Western Tent Caterpillar” Lasiocampidae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Normally, tent caterpillars live in large groups in the safety of their silk “tents,” but this individual appears to have wandered off on its own. Often, after defoliating all the foliage on their first tent-plant, caterpillars will seek out food on nearby trees. But this individual looks really big and I suspect that it is seeking some quiet place to metamorphose into an adult moth. Learn more about these awesome moths here.

Happy National Moth Week!

Halictus sp. “Sweat Bee” Halictidae on
Geranium viscosissimum “Sticky Geranium” Geraniaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Sticky Geranium, as its name would suggest, is covered in tiny glandular hairs that are quite sticky to the touch. Some have suggested that these sticky glands are capable of capturing and digesting small orgnanisms, making the plant slightly carnivorous. It grows in meadows, Ponderosa Pinelands, and at the edge of sagebrush-steppe habitats throughout the PNW. 

Prunus virginiana “Chokecherry” Rosaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Chokecherry is a native species of cherry that is abundant on the drier, east-facing mountain slopes of the PNW. It was a staple food for many tribes in our area and is still regularly harvested by many native peoples. Each small fruit has a pit in the center (like a cherry) which can make its preparation difficult. Check out Abe Lloyd’s blog for details and recipes for things like Chokecherry fruit-leather, jam, and wine.

Anemone multifida var. multifida “Cut-leaf Anemone” Ranunculaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3 2015
Robert Niese

This anemone is found sporadically throughout the northwest – from the Olympic Peninsula and coastal BC to the Cascades and various eastern mountain ranges – but it is uncommon throughout its range and varies drastically from population to population. Its subspecies designations are thought by many to be inaccurate and based on traits that simply vary with environmental conditions, even within populations.